Damascus 1984 – Laïque School
‘His parents could barely pay for his private school, but it would not have been good for their prestige to have their last child going to a public school. Yet the morning routine in his private school was not different than that in any public school in Damascus. Before morning classes, all students were dressed in a military-like uniform (not used any longer) and organized with strict order in the school yard according to their grade. Each grade had its own principal and was divided into several classes. They called them sections.
The musical band played the national anthem. One of the school principals used to stand on top of the stairs that lead to the class rooms carrying a horn. “One Arab nation” He would say. “With one eternal mission” the students would shout back. “Our objectives?” he would then say. “Unity, Freedom, and Socialism” the students yelled. These were the objectives of the ruling Baath party “Our covenant is to thwart?” He would question. “Imperialism, Zionism, and regressive movement; and to destroy their criminal instrument: the treasonous gang of the Muslim brotherhood” the students would answer with a strong voice. The latter slogan was added after the failed revolt and the bloody events in Hamah in 1982. Later in his life, he realized that all of this was nothing but a fantastic brain-washing propaganda that dominated their lives at that time.
After that the musical band would play various patriotic songs while the students would march orderly to their classrooms as if they were in the army. The guys in the musical bands were the cool guys. He was not one of them. He was just an ordinary student who had managed to be in the first section in his grade. The students were divided into sections according to their exam scores. So he was one of highest scoring students. This never got into his head though. He was a modest book-smart boy with only one friend. He sought meaning and acceptance by others.